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AHA cautions HUD against tightening hospital financing program

The Dept. of Housing and Urban Development should not up the financial standards that health care institutions need to qualify for Federal Housing Administration Section 242 hospital mortgage insurance, according to a letter issued July 27 by the American Hospital Assn. and co-signed by members of a coalition of national health care associations. "It's a bit backwards. This makes it very difficult for hospitals to avail themselves of the program at the very time when they really need it to lower borrowing costs," said Susan Waltman, executive vice president and general counsel of the Greater New York Hospital Assn. The organization is a member of the coalition. HUD announced July 1 that the Section 242 program will be an option for all hospitals looking to refinance debt. The program previously was available only to those institutions using at least 20% of the money gained from a refinance for new construction or renovation. The change was cheered by those in the industry. Ins ...

Medicare Part D premiums to inch up in 2010

The majority of Medicare beneficiaries currently enrolled in a prescription drug plan will only see a minor increase in their premiums in 2010, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced Aug. 13. Based on the bids submitted by Part D plans, CMS estimates that the average monthly premium beneficiaries will pay for standard coverage in 2010 will be $30, an increase of $2 over the 2009 premium. "The majority of beneficiaries enrolled in prescription drug plans should see only small changes in their Part D premiums or benefits in the coming year," said Jonathan Blum, acting director of the CMS Center for Health Plan Choices. "Although most Part D plans should have relatively stable premiums, all beneficiaries should compare their current coverage with the plans that will be offered in 2010." That information is expected to be available in October. When open enrollment begins later this year, some seniors may need to take steps to ensure they have the coverage they need. T ...

Part B drug proposal would curtail Medicare pay cuts after 2010

Washington -- The typically bleak outlook that marks the proposed Medicare fee schedule for the upcoming year was significantly brighter this time around for physicians looking for relief from impending pay cuts. In a major policy reversal from the previous administration, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has proposed removing physician-administered drugs from the calculation of the Medicare physician payment formula. Doctor pay is reduced across the board when spending on all physician services -- a category that includes Part B drugs -- exceeds annual targets. Removing the costs of the drugs would lessen the extent to which spending would exceed targets and trigger cuts. The CMS proposal, announced July 1, would not reduce next year's planned 21.5% across-the-board cut. But it would reduce the number of years after 2010 that physicians face reductions under the payment formula, and it also would decrease the size of the cuts that remain. Over the next five years, ...